MIDDLESBROUGH may have secured some shock results against Manchester City over the years, but a victory on Sunday would arguably top the lot.
Boro may have afforded themselves a shot of confidence by way of Wednesday night’s narrow derby victory over Sunderland – to end a crippling and thoroughly depressing run of 16 league games without a win – but the chances of a repeat remain extremely slim against a City side who are chasing Champions League qualification.
Pep Guardiola’s side cruised to an FA Cup success at the Riverside seven weeks ago tomorrow – when they did not have to get out of first gear let alone second – and while the history books allude to a problematic fixture for the blue half of Manchester on frequent occasions over the years, the here and now suggests otherwise.
Not that Boro are giving up the ghost regarding their Premier League status yet, with the home faithful perhaps mindful of their surprise last-gasp draw at the Etihad Stadium in November and some other head-turning results against City over the years, including a famous FA Cup victory in January 2015.
And it is fair to say that when you are entrenched in the relegation zone, you salvage any positive that you can.
Manager Steve Agnew, who claimed his craved-for first win of his spell in charge at the seventh attempt in midweek, said: “We are all under different pressures. We are looking to win the game, as Manchester City are to cement a place in top four.
We are in a situation now where we go into the game off the back of a win and we’re in good spirits.Middlesbrough boss, Steve Agnew
“It is an exciting fixture. We are in a situation now where we go into the game off the back of a win and we’re in good spirits.
“It is still a huge challenge but one we are very much look forward to.
“(The picture) could change but there is nothing we can do about that.
“All we can do is focus on our performance and result.
“We know we are playing a top team and top coach. We are aware how difficult it is.
“When we went to the Etihad earlier in the season we came away with a point.
“In the cup game, we worked hard and we are confident. We are confident we will put a performance on.”
You have to go back to May 2008 for the last time that Boro won back-to-back Premier League fixtures, ironically achieved thanks to an 8-1 final-day routing of City in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s swansong as the Blues’ manager.
Boro remain six points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Hull and the margin could be extended today.